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Wheeling focus of Civil War Roundtable

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Her bachelor's degree from West Virginia University is in math education. Her master's, from Wheeling Jesuit University, is in math and science. Her doctorate, in curriculum and instruction, with an emphasis in mathematics, is from WVU. By profession she is an educational software developer with Polyhedron Learning Media and helped develop educational software at the NASA Classroom of the Future at Wheeling Jesuit. Additionally, she spent 20 years as a high school math teacher.

As Thursday's featured speaker at the California University of Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable, she won't bombard you with mathematics or educational concepts — unless you press her on the subjects. Instead, Jeanne Finstein's presentation will focus on the role played by Wheeling and its citizens in the formation of the state of West Virginia, important Union efforts that took place in Wheeling during the war, and the lives and adventures of several Wheeling Confederates and Unionists.

Referring to herself to as an amateur historian who has a special interest in Wheeling's history during the Civil War, Finstein is secretary of the Ohio Valley Civil War Roundtable (Wheeling); president of Friends of Wheeling, an historic preservation organization; treasurer of the Wheeling Area Genealogical Society; and vice regent of the local Wheeling chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Continuously involved in Civil War research, especially as it pertains to West Virginia and more locally to the Wheeling region, Finstein is also a member of the Civil War 150 Committee in Wheeling, which provides monthly newspaper articles focusing on what happened in Wheeling or with people of Wheeling at that time during the war.

But don't let her fool you…about not being a historian, that is. As much as she says she is not, let her words speak for themselves.

In fact, history, she claims, was her most dreaded subject.

So how did she develop such a strong interest in history?

Pausing for several seconds, she explained that from her education and career, her focus was in areas not related to history. But that newfound historical interest was sparked when she purchased a house that was built after the turn of the century … 20th century, that is. Following that acquisition of the home — built in 1906 — she became interested in the history of the house and joined Friends of Wheeling, spurring a corresponding interest in the history behind other old houses as well.

But her interest in older homes in Wheeling led to an interest in Wheeling's history, the people and their history as well.

“This morphed into a general interest about the Civil War as it was related to Wheeling and Wheeling's history,” she said.

Using a PowerPoint display, Finstein, 67, who was born in Charleston but settled in Wheeling, will discuss Wheeling's history during the Civil War, beginning with the fact that Wheeling was a city in Virginia. However, the state's western counties were not pleased with the view of the larger picture by the state government. Wheeling's population and focus were different from those of Virginia proper. More mountainous, Wheeling was not plantation-oriented. More industrialized, Wheeling's focus was more toward the North and the Union, and its transportation activities along the Ohio reflected economic issues of the North.

“Wheeling,” Finstein noted, “is about the same latitude as Philadelphia, and many residents felt more like northerners, but many of the city's oldest families were still loyal to Virginia.”

During early years of the war, hearings were held to determine the future of the area, with western counties represented and voting to secede. Also voting to separate from Virginia was the Wheeling contingent, which was positive regarding its response with supplying the Union with troops.

Following statehood hearings held in Wheeling, the state of West Virginia came into being June 20, 1863, declaring loyalty to the U.S. government. Last year, the city celebrated the 150th birthday of the state.

While Finstein promises to provide more details at the Roundtable, she provided for this article a brief sketch of individuals prominent in Wheeling during the Civil War.

Representing the Union were Benjamin Franklin Kelly, colonel of the 1st Virginia Infantry which became the 1st West Virginia Infantry. Kelly was elevated to the rank of general later during the war. Col. Joseph Thoburn, surgeon in the 1st Virginia, treated Kelly at the Battle of Phillipi. Edward M. Norton, an elector of Abraham Lincoln, was appointed marshal of the area and was proactive in confiscating Confederate property.

Supporting the Confederacy was Capt. Daniel Shriver, who led a contingent of some 80 soldiers known as Shriver's Grays. Annapolis grad Francis Hoge resigned his commission in the U.S. Navy and took up arms with the Confederate Navy. Slave owner John Goshorn gave slave Lucy Bagby to his son, William; Lucy escaped to Pittsburgh where her status became an issue based on the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Teacher Ellie Poole was accused of spying for the Confederacy and was arrested by Norton.

Making Finstein's research and interest in the war that much more significant and personal is the fact that her great-great-grandfathers are from Ripley, one who fought with the Union, one with the Confederacy.

“Their children married each other,” Finstein explained. “Their children were my great-grandparents.”

Finstein will meet Civil War enthusiasts in the University's Kara Alumni House. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with the meeting scheduled for a 7 p.m. start. Questions regarding the Roundtable should be directed to or 724-258-3406.

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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